composer / keyboardist Peter Calandra is making music fans
very happy with his 2015 CD, First Light. Highlighting
music influenced by the artist's background in the realm of film music,
First Light shines with an appealing assortment of orchestral
soundtrack-based instrumental music that encompasses New Age, jazz
and pop-based sounds. With
First Light shining
virtuosic piano, as well as his keyboards, electric and acoustic guitars,
synth bass, percussion and programming, the album also highlights
a number of artists that also play on the CD, on instruments ranging
from orchestral strings, flute, oboe, acoustic bass, percussion and
vocals. The orchestral strings, mixed in with the live vocal choir,
especially on track 11, Morning Star, is quite impressive,
bringing the album into a higher musical realm. Commenting on the
cinematic nature of his music, Calandra adds, "I always think
of my music as telling stories in sound. The approach for this album
was to focus on creating an album of music that has piano as part
of an ensemble rather than to have compositions based around my piano
playing. While there are piano centric tracks, and the piano is the
lead voice in many of the songs, its all done in the service
of the music, not to show off my keyboard skills. After a good portion
of the album was finished, I actually filled it out by reworking several
cues from films I have scored over the past few years that fit into
this concept." With its mix of orchestral sounds and New Age
keyboard sonics, Peter Calandras First Light will find
a home with fans of tasteful, piano-based New Age / soundtrack instrumentals.
mwe3.com presents an interview
Can you tell us where youre from? Where do you live in New York
and what do you like best about it? Does the city still have the magic
Peter Calandra: I was born in Brooklyn and raised on Long Island.
I currently live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and also have
a place up in the Catskills. I spend most of my time in town and then
weekends in the summer upstate. I like having the contrast between
the wild energy of the city and the calm beauty of the mountains.
mwe3: Your 2015 CD First Light is a great music soundtrack
for an imaginary movie. Is that how you see it? Did you have a musical
goal and what was your approach during the writing and recording of
Peter Calandra: Thank you! I always think of my music as
telling stories in sound. The approach for this album was to focus
on being an album of music that has piano as part of an ensemble rather
than to have compositions based around my piano playing. While there
are piano centric tracks and the piano is the lead voice in many of
the songs, its all done in the service of the music not to show
off my piano playing. After a good portion of the album was finished,
I actually filled it out by reworking several cues from films I have
scored over the past few years that fit into this concept. For example,
Night City is a cue from an ESPN film as is Inner
How would you compare First Light with your earlier albums?
How do you find that your music has improved or has evolved over time?
Peter Calandra: The music on this album has a more consistent
tone from start to finish. I also like the way the music flows from
one track to the next on this album. In my other life as a film and
TV composer, scoring to picture and having music aid in the unfolding
of a story has greatly changed the way I write music.
The other aspect of the film/TV world is the discipline needed to
create large quantities of quality music in a short period of time
to meet deadlines. In order to achieve this, one needs to develop
strategies for getting in touch with the creative flow at will rather
than waiting for inspiration to strike. For me this meant learning
how to let music flow thru me with as little interference from my
rational thought as possible. Having modern technology available for
recording has really helped this as the computer has become an instrument
I play to help create and record my compositions.
For example I wrote and recorded the FOX FIFA World Cup Theme in 8
hours. Start to finish for the entire composition, which will be on
air until 2026. I was in a zone where the music just flowed out of
me. Time seemed to stand still and I captured all of it right into
my sequencer. I handed it in and won the gig with no changes to the
music, which is a rare thing in broadcast media. That is something
I could not do 15 years ago.
mwe3: How many albums do you have released on CD and how many
digital only? Its kind of sad to see the digital download supplant
the physical CD especially as you did such a great job on the First
Light CD sound and packaging.
Calandra: Thank you. I really enjoy the process of recording music.
I engineer all the music on my albums. Part of getting a great sound
however, has to do with getting great musicians. You can just put
a mic up and it sounds great straight off. I am friends with some
of the best freelancers in NYC and it is an amazing experience recording
them. Even with the signal loss due to MP3 compression, the care taken
in recording and mixing the album still makes a difference to the
4 of my albums are available on both CD and MP3. 3 albums are digital
only. Albums I am promoting usually get made into CDs to send
around and albums that I am just releasing are just made into digital.
Its purely for economic reasons as I am a self-funded artist.
mwe3: How would you describe your own music? New Age jazz with
a futuristic beat? Soundtrack jazz? You must have had a lot positive
feedback from listeners.
Peter Calandra: I actually have an aversion to describing my
music in stylistic terms. I think when one does that it puts the music
into a small box and, even if its just on a subconscious level,
limits ones creativity. What I will say is that it is my intention
to create music that allows the listener to go on an aural journey
and create space for the music to let emotions flow and touch their
What artists and albums in pop, jazz and classical inspired you early
in your life to want to make your own music? What artists do you feel
are breaking musical ground in 2015?
Peter Calandra: As a young student, I was heavily into the
1960s jazz pianists. Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Bill Evans,
McCoy Tyner and Keith Jarrett. I also love John Coltrane, Miles Davis,
The Beatles, Pete Townshend, Peter Gabriel. I also love music by Bartok,
Stravinsky, Bach, Chopin, Debussy, Arvo Part, Górecki, Steve
Reich, Copland and many others. I also love roots music, blues, Indian
raga and many other kinds of music. I try not to listen to many contemporary
artists, as I do not want my music to be influenced by anything out
mwe3: Who were the key musicians who played with you on the
First Light album and what engineers and producers helped you
achieve your sound in the studio and on the CD?
Peter Calandra: All of the musicians played a key role on the
album. Ralph Farris, Junah Chung, Ragga Petursdottir and Peter Prosser
on strings. Dave Weiss, Kathleen Nester and Julia DeRosa on winds.
Also a great help was Joy Askew who sang all the choir parts. I engineered
and produced this album and all my albums. I co-mixed the album with
the great Ken Freeman who also mastered the album.
mwe3: What are some of your favorite keyboards and guitars
that you played during the making of the First Light album?
The studio sound of the CD is very high-tech but very accessible too.
Calandra: I used all software synths on the album that I sequenced
in Pro Tools. I played acoustic guitars by Martin and Guild and the
electric guitar is my Telecaster. I played a Yamaha C7 piano.
mwe3: What are some of your favorite soundtracks and TV music
works that you composed music for? Do you have other projects upcoming
for any new TV shows, theater or soundtracks and has any of the music
you wrote and recorded for these shows been recorded for possible
CD release in the future?
Peter Calandra: My favorite soundtracks are for the films Jellysmoke,
Unknown Soldier, Rise 1961, Coach Bernie and BearCity2.
My favorite 2 TV compositions are the FOX FIFA World Cup Theme and
also ESPNs 2015 Special Olympics World Games , themes which
ESPN has recently submitted for Emmy consideration. The BearCity2
soundtrack is up on iTunes now. Jellysmoke and Unknown Soldier
were released by Moviescore Media but are no longer available.
mwe3: Who are some of your favorite movie or theatrical soundtrack
composers and why?
Peter Calandra: My favorite composers are Bernard Hermann,
Elmer Bernstein, Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner, Danny Elfman. Almost
anything by these composers is fabulous.
What other plans do you have for 2015 and 2016 as far as promoting
your music, writing new music, recording, teaching at the Aaron Copland
School Of Music at Queens College and other activities?
Peter Calandra: As far as other plans, right now I am scoring
some of the short biopics for this years Kennedy Center Awards
Honorees, and there is another 30 for 30 film for ESPN Ill be
starting in mid January. Im also hoping to release another album
in 2016 as well. Im just getting the direction together for
that. Im thinking it will be a piano trio album with some guest
As far as teaching at ACSM goes, Im busy this semester with
an advanced Audio/Midi class, a film scoring class and private graduate
level composition students. All that plus regular subbing work on
Broadway keeps me pretty busy. It gets hectic at times but I love
it all and count my blessings daily!